Honoring our Founders: Beth Garfield and Cynthia Russell
Event recognizes Beth Garfield and Cynthia Russell
Reflecting on the tumultous and exciting era when they arrived on campus as undergraduates in the 1970s, student founders Elizabeth Garfield and Cynthia Russell shared memories of inspiration, transgression, and persistence in their campaign to establish at Stanford a Center for Research on Women (CROW).
Honoring our Founders
In May 2022, the Clayman Institute hosted a reception welcoming many of the friends, scholars, and staffers who shepherded CROW into existence, as well as those who have sustained and grown it in the almost 50 years since. Central to the origin story of the Clayman Institute, which opened as CROW in 1974, are Russell and Garfield, who together at the event presented memories and photos of their role as founders.
Russell recalled the moment she arrived on campus amid demonstrations against the Vietnam war, following events on campus that left evidence of destruction. She remembers damaged windows covered over with boards. "Students felt empowered to take action and effect change, but there were no clear models on how change could be made."
There was an energy to the student activism that was exciting, and Garfield sought ways to harness that in support of women. The need was evident. While the number of women students was growing, it was only about 35 percent. Russell said, "What I remember most vividly is how few women professors there were." In 1970 only 15 percent of faculty were women, and most were assistant professors and untenured.
Beth Garfield mingling at the Honoring our Founders event in her honor.
Honoree Cynthia Russell, Institute Director Adrian Daub, Institute Executive Director Alison Dahl Crossley, and Beth Garfield
Garfield, Russell, Daub, and Strober present their remarks on the founding years and impact of the Clayman Institute.
"Feminism was struggling to be acknowledged"
As an undergraduate, Russell became involved with coordinating a weekly series of community lectures focusing on research and teaching about women. The popularity of the program made clear that the campus community responded to the topic.
The women described one particularly memorable lecture, in which Herbert Marcuse, a well-known political theorist who was a professor at UC San Diego, spoke on feminism and Marxism. "I will never forget that day," Garfield said. As people began arriving, it became clear very quickly that the usual meeting space wasn't going to be big enough to accommodate everyone. At the last moment, they managed to move the event to Memorial Auditorium and, incredibly, about 1,500 people attended.
In the '70s, Garfield said, "Feminism was struggling to be acknowledged as a legitimate political movement." So when Professor Marcuse said: "Feminism is the most important and potentially most radical movement that we have," Garfield recalled: "The cheering was deafening."
Strober, Daub, Garfield and Russell
"We knew that we had to transgress"
While it was clear to Russell and Garfield that they wanted Stanford to devote more academic resources to women's issues, it took some time and exploration to identify an approach. They sought out supportive faculty members, and their first stop was the office of Myra Strober. She had recently been hired as an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Business as their first woman faculty member.
Strober, who also spoke at the Honoring our Founders event, remembered the students each came to visit her separately. Knowing that as a new junior faculty member she lacked institutional power, she referred them to others, including Eleanor Maccoby, the university's only woman department chair and a tenured professor in psychology; Jing Lyman, a strong advocate and wife of the university president; and Jim March, an influential professor in the business school as well as education and humanities. March's advice to the students was to expect pushback, and to let those obstacles assure them they were on the right path. "We knew that we had to transgress," said Russell, "so transgress we did."
The students worked together with these mentors to formulate a proposal and secure initial funding from both the university and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, and soon after, the Ford Foundation. Strober remembers, "Beth and Cindy were tireless." She also lauded the essential contributions of a third student, Susan Heck, who has since passed away. Heck was a graduate student in education who played a key role as one of the three student founders and continued to work with CROW during its first year. Each summer, the Clayman Institute welcomes undergraduates to conduct their own gender research projects as part of the Susan Heck Interns program.
Following their advocacy and many efforts, the Center for Research on Women was established in 1974, with Strober as its first director. It boasted two rooms on campus and a telephone. Russell said, "We created a welcoming resource center and a hub of information for students and faculty in our two rooms. That original ethos of CROW remains at the Clayman Institute today."
These founding students remained involved with the Institute for many years after graduation as Advisory Council members. Strober saluted them: "Thank you Cindy and Beth for getting us on the road, and for all the work that you do, and for your wisdom."
Beth Garfield and Cynthia Russell with Iris Litt, a former director.
Former Director of Programs Ann Enthoven, left; event honoree Cynthia Russell with her husband, John Russell
"We are forever grateful"
The Clayman Institute's current director, Adrian Daub, reflected on the importance of looking back at this first in-person event since the COVID pandemic began in 2020. "We are forever grateful to our founders and believe it's important to preserve this history and our origin story and those integral to it," he said.
The fact that a group of students came together, identified a vision, and persuaded those in power to work with them to make it happen "is a truly inspiring thing," Daub noted. "It continues to inspire me every day when I get to walk into our building and reflect on the kind of Institute that we have."
Michelle R. Clayman, chair of the Advisory Council, said, "Beth and Cynthia and Susan were visionaries" when they began the process that would culminate in an Institute that still operates as a leading center of gender research almost 50 years later. Clayman told them, "You have enabled years and years of groundbreaking research. My thanks to you."
As for their thoughts looking back at the founding of CROW, Garfield pointed to not its past, but its present. She said, "It is so much more than we even dreamed of."